Early life was difficult on ‘Whip-Poor-Will Hill’

The abstract for the farm we wanted said, "John Robnett and his wife petitioned the land from the United States government." Later owners were the Pleasant Robnetts, Crews and Baumgarters. We bought the land from the widow of a St. Louis dentist. She had no intention of using the land and priced the 160 acres for quick sale. We bought it before there was telephone service, before the road was graveled and when trees still formed a "roof" over the single-track road. Other vehicles occasionally went to the three farms beyond ours. One great thing was that the fairly recently built tenant house was wired for electricity.

The electric line crossed the farm to extend service to farms beyond our entrance driveway. Electricity simplified our using the tenant house for light lunches, naps, etc., each day. There were two big trees in the yard: a mulberry and a thorn, neither really good for a children’s play area. We destroyed the thorn and kept the mulberry in spite of its messy purple berries in June and July. There was an old hen house, a tool shed and a good privy in the backyard.

The mail route ended at Rangeline Road, two miles from the farm. All four of our mailboxes were on Rangeline Road because the lane was sometimes not usable after heavy rains and in winter ice and snow. Our entrance was two miles or more from Rangeline Road and about the same distance from "Vemer’s Ford" at the road’s end.

Three families lived between our driveway and Cedar Creek. People could ford the creek to Callaway County or go by team and wagon or on foot but not by car or truck. High water washes out crossings; Cedar Creek extends from near Centralia to the Missouri River, growing as it flows south.

Much hard labor went into renovating this worn old farm and its partly new road. Before we bought it, Dad walked all over it and said, "The west 80 acres can be made to produce enough to pay interest and taxes on the entire farm."

Dad was O.D. Meyers, who lived on his 80 acres near Columbia. Mom died unexpectedly in 193l.

Dad was tireless, helping Chub, the bulldozer driver and other laborers to renovate this farm. He was at our home daily at sun-up; he and Chub went to the farm at daylight, and the children and I were there each noon, with food for us all.

"Soil science" was changing farmers’ lives. Instead of farms becoming a little less productive with each additional crop, the soil was becoming more productive. Terraces slowed erosion. Pastures were lush and green. Fertilizers nourished the soil, and farming was becoming "a whole new ballgame." My brother, a farm agent in Nodaway County, also coached us when we called for advice. The plan was to improve the soil, terrace the fields and forget most of the interior fencing except around the one little house and my garden and flowerbeds.

I was changing, too! I had set out rose bushes near the cottage door, and I took my typewriter to the farm and wrote while Nancy and Walt were napping. My first submission brought an immediate reply from a travel magazine: "My Dear Mrs. Gerard: Of course we will NOT buy your ‘Camping’ article. Hotels and restaurants pay our printing bills."

Lesson No. 1!" It was never forgotten. Next I wrote about something I knew quite well: "Teaching Your Child To Swim." "Better Homes and Gardens" held it a very long time, and finally the letter came: "We will want your help to shoot photos of you teaching your children. Ö Enclosed is our check for $250."

I could hardly wait to tell Dad and Chub they could order that much more grass seed!

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